Justice Minister David Ford has published proposals for consultation to save millions of pounds from civil and criminal legal aid.
Proposals outlined in the Reform of Financial Eligibility for Civil and Criminal Legal Aid consultation document include the possible introduction of threshold limits for Magistrates Courts regarding criminal legal aid, simplifying the current means tests for the three areas of civil legal aid and some ideas for how early advice and assistance could be delivered in the future.
Mr Ford yesterday said: "Expenditure on civil legal aid has increased significantly in recent years and the current procedures need to be reformed so that, in future, publicly funded legal services can be delivered within budget. Implementing all the proposals I have published today could potentially save in excess of £3.5m annually.
"As part of my reform agenda I have already taken action on criminal legal aid which will result in a reduction in legal aid annual expenditure of some £20m."
The minister reiterated his commitment to providing access to justice for those who do not have the financial means to pay legal fees.
The consultation period closes on June 21.